Adopted Child, Deported Adult. Wazulu’s Story

Wazulu was born in India and adopted as a child. He was taken to the USA at the age of 12 to live with American parents and for the next twenty years he studied and lived as an American. A brilliant musician, Wazulu was gaining recognition as a performer and producer of an original style of Indian influenced Hip Hop and at age thirty was living comfortably in Portland, Oregon. In 2010 whilst returning to the USA from a trip to Costa Rica to perform at a music festival, Wazulu was detained, held in a detention center for two months and then eventually deported back to India. Read and share his story here.

Wazulu’s adoption story starts here:

“I was told I was going to Mumbai. The next thing I knew, I was in an airplane, seeing snow outside,” says Wazulu, recounting the fateful day in 1989. Originally from Bengaluru, the 42-year-old was adopted by an American couple that year. 12-years-old then, he had been living at an orphanage in Bengaluru.

Wazulu lived in Portland, Oregon, for about two decades. But the life he had built was cruelly snatched away in 2010, when he was suddenly deported to India with no explanation why. Wazulu was a green card holder, and also had a passport, both were taken away from him.

From a fairly comfortable life in Portland, Wazulu was forced overnight to live a hand to mouth existence. However, his is not an isolated case. Adoptee deportation has affected thousands of people, most of them originally from third world countries. They have grown up believing they are Americans, until one day they are sent back to their country of birth, which, for all practical purposes is a foreign land to them.

Wazulu’s parents died in 1980 within a few weeks of each other when he was three. While his three sisters were put in the care of relatives, Wazulu was given up to Child Fund Association in Jayanagar in 1986 due to his grandmother’s inability to care for him.

In 1989, Holt International, an adoption agency, facilitated his adoption by an American couple who lived in Kansas. Wazulu ran away from them because the couple was allegedly racist, and made him do physical labor at their farm. In 1990, he was adopted by the Redmonds, again through Holt. However, his adoptive father allegedly molested him, causing him to run away when he was 16.

Wazulu eventually started making music in the late 1990s – hip hop with a touch of Indian musical styles – and enjoyed some success. “I suffered in America but I made it there, with music,” he says, a hint of pride on his face.

In 2010, Wazulu was returning from Costa Rica to the US after playing a show. When he arrived in the US however, he was told to step aside by the ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials. “Then they told me, you are not a citizen here. You are coming into the country illegally.  I was shocked! I went to Waluga Junior High, Lincoln High School, Portland State University… what do you mean I am not a citizen here?” he says vehemently.

Wazulu says he was kept in a lockup for two months after this incident. “There were real gangsters and criminals there. And I stood out, with my brown skin. I was scared for my life.”

And so, when he was pressured into giving up his green card and go back to India as the only way to get out of the prison, he complied. In February 2010, Wazulu arrived in Bengaluru with just $20 and no documents.

“I live day by day. I can’t, and don’t think about tomorrow,”

Wazulu says simply, when asked how he has managed all these years.

Sometimes, he collaborated with some of his musician friends who visited India and earned sustenance by making music. But for the most part, Wazulu has had no fixed abode, no fixed income. He has done odd jobs, and traveled to several states for work, but only via bus or unreserved coaches in trains, where they didn’t check ID.

Wazulu had been traveling in and out of the US earlier for music shows; he had even come to India several times, reconnecting with his sisters in Bengaluru, helping them out financially. He has no idea what went wrong in 2010.

He has since gotten in touch with Against Child Trafficking (ACT), and organization working to stop inter-country adoption, as well as Adoptee Rights Campaign (ARC), one of the few organizations working for the rights of adoptees deported from the US, who are trying to figure out how best to help him.

Wazulu says that he had been trying to get in touch with Holt International to get his documents for six years before they finally responded. Incidentally, Holt International’s operations were suspended in India after the Sherin Mathews case which grabbed international attention in January 2018. The three-year-old was adopted through the agency by Keralite parents in Texas, and was found to have died of homicidal violence.

TNM tried getting in touch with Holt, but did not receive a response.

“I lost my parents, I was taken to America. I did not have a say then, I didn’t have a say now,” Wazulu says. “I don’t want any other child to go through what I did, which is why I am still trying. I have my older documents but I don’t know how much they will help. All I know is that I want to get my passport, and go back.”

For original article visit here.

To help Wazulu visit his Gofundme campaign here.